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New Canaan: Meet your Republican Town Council candidates

Updated 10:44 am, Monday, July 15, 2013

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  • John Engel is running for a spot on New Canaan's Town Council. The Republican caucus will take place July 16 at 7 p.m. at Saxe auditorium. Photo: Tyler Woods
    John Engel is running for a spot on New Canaan's Town Council. The Republican caucus will take place July 16 at 7 p.m. at Saxe auditorium. Photo: Tyler Woods

 

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New Canaan Republicans will choose their preferred candidates for town offices in the auditorium of Saxe Middle School on July 16 at 7:30 p.m. at the Republican Town Committee caucus.

Seven candidates are running for four Republican spots on the Town Council, each of whom took the time to explain his or her experiences, talents and interests.

Roy Abramowitz

Resident: 13 years

Profession: Accountant, Roy A. Abramowitz and Co.

Civic involvement: Board of directors of Greenwich Council of the Boy Scouts of America, chairman of its audit committee, member of its executive, finance and investment, and nominating committee; member of the New Canaan Office of Emergency Management; New Canaan Fire Company volunteer firefighter; member of the New Canaan and Fairfield County Red Cross disaster team; chairman emeritus of the New Canaan Tree Board; treasurer of the Starlight Children's Foundation of Connecticut, New York and New Jersey, and chairman emeritus of its audit committee; treasurer of the New Canaan Peter Wojteki Veterans Foundation.

Central issue: Fiscal matters.

"I think over the last multiple number of years, the members of the Town Council have not properly represented the constituency they were elected to represent," Abramowitz said. "There's been scandal after scandal. The members have just rubber stamped things rather than do their homework."

Abramowitz cited his financial background in accounting as a premier qualification, noting that he'd brought up several of the issues outlined in the town's recent audit report several years ago.

"We're at a critical juncture and if we have business as usual I think we're headed for a fiscal disaster," he warned. "We need people with financial savvy to sit down and dot the I's and cross the T's. We need financial conservatism and we need transparency."

Abramowitz ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Town Council two years ago. In January, he ran for the open seat vacated by Tom O'Dea, who was elected to the state House of Representatives, but withdrew his candidacy after what he felt was unfair treatment.

John Engel

Resident: 33 years.

Profession: Realtor, Brotherhood & Higley.

Civic involvement: Town Council; New Canaan Land Trust; Rotary Club.

Engel joined the Town Council in January, filling the seat vacated by O'Dea. He said that in his six months on the council, he's learned how central an issue the budget is to all decisions.

Central issue: Balancing competing fiscal demands of good schools and low taxes.

As one of only two Town Council members with children in the school system, he said he places emphasis on the quality of the education, the town's greatest expense. As a realtor who explains the town's mill rate to prospective residents every day, he also understand the importance of low taxes in the quotient that comprises the town's desirability.

"I think the important issue is a balance between trying to keep taxes low and adequately supporting our schools," he said.

Paul Foley

Resident: 24 years.

Profession: Managing director, Southport Lane LLC (private equity)

Civic involvement: Fire Commission, Exchange Club, Community Emergency Response Team.

Central issue: Collegiality.

Foley cited the recent buzzword around the Town Council as the reason for his coming out of retirement: collegiality. He served two terms on the council, from 2001 to 2009.

"I'm running to help restore some civility and rational thinking on the Town Council," he said. "I think it has been lacking in the last couple of years and I'm willing to come out of retirement and offer my experience."

A fiscal conservative, Foley sees the need to maintain a balanced budget as the essential function of government.

"I think most all issues are around money and how we spend money and allocate resources of the town ... I want to set a common-sense approach to deal with a problem of limited resources."

Kevin Moynihan

Resident: 32 years.

Profession: Lawyer, Merrill Lynch, retired.

Civic involvement: Vice chairman of the Republican Town Council, member of the board of directors of the New Canaan Community Foundation and for Getabout Inc., New Canaan Senior Health Care and Housing Policy Development Committee member, former member of the National Finance Committee for Romney for President.

Central issue: Senior housing.

Moynihan said one issue he's particularly interested in is increasing the amount of affordable housing in New Canaan, specifically for senior citizens, by reforming some zoning regulations.

"We're losing people left and right from people leaving for the cost of living," he said. "This can be done in the private sector without any town subsidy."

Moynihan said he believes he could help the Town Council by bringing his 32 years of legal experience to the table, which he thinks it lost after O'Dea left. He had considered running for that seat, but deferred to O'Dea when he announced his candidacy for state representative.

Additionally, he thinks he could bring a degree of civility to the recently tumultuous body.

"We don't need further bashing or lawsuits; it's enough to talk about the issues."

Daniel Radman

Resident: Nine years

Profession: Project manager and architect, Roger Ferris and Partners

Civic involvement: Member of Republican Town Council and Preservation Alliance, Planning and Zoning Commission alternate member.

Central issue: Transparency.

Radman is back in the ring again after an one unsuccessful Town Council bid two years ago and one in January.

He views the sitting Town Council as one that has made many poor decisions.

"From the Jeb Walker pension fund to the Lakeview Avenue bridge, and there are approvals of budgets that are not fully vetted and not fully analyzed. I offer a fresh perspective, a fresh set of eyes," he said. "I think it's time for the town to have a little bit of a change."

Radman cited his experience as a project manager at his architecture firm as something that would be helpful on the council. He noted that some of his projects have budgets larger than New Canaan's annual budget.

Bill Walbert

Resident: 23 years

Profession: Financial services, Walbert Capital Management

Civic involvement: Former president of both the New Canaan Community Foundation and Rotary Club of New Canaan, board member of the Gridiron Club.

Big issue: The budget.

"I certainly have a fine eye for financial detail, that's been my career: I'm a numbers guy," he said.

Walbert, whose three children attended New Canaan public schools, cited upcoming union contracts, cell phone coverage and financial best practices as the most important issues coming down the pipe.

"In the end, it's always about balancing the many worthwhile demands of the budget. There's a lot of things that people want to do and it comes down to, `Do we have the money to spend on them?'"

Walbert hopes to be a consensus builder on the council. He cited his financial background as experience from which he would draw on the council.

Penny Young

Resident: 38 years

Civic involvement: Executive committee of Waveny Care Network; Connecticut Committee on Aging; secretary, New Canaan League of Women Voters; CERT volunteer; Meals on Wheels volunteer; Stamford Symphony Board of Directors; Norwalk Community College Advisory Committee; board member, Yankee Institute for Public Policy; former president, New Canaan Beautification League.

Central issue: Senior resident life.

Senior issues have been central to Young's time in town. She helped begin the programs at the Lapham Center, which now offers between 100 and 125 of them a semester and has record high enrollment. Young received a master's degree in gerontology.

With 16 years on the council, Young brings experience and institutional knowledge to the body, she said. Most recently, she's been working on rewriting the Town Council's rules, policies and procedures. She said she will be introducing revisions to update the town charter in the fall.

The sitting Town Council has faced a good deal of criticism for its handling of recent issues, such as the Lakeview Avenue bridge and former First Selectman Jeb Walker's inflated pension payments. Young explains the issues as stemming from a lack of information.

"You make decisions based on the information given to you," she said. "As soon as it surfaced that the information was not complete, it got corrected, and about as quickly as you could."

twoods@bcnnew.com; 203-330-6582; @Woods_NCNews